The number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment rose to more than 6.6 million for the week ended April 4, according to the Department of Labor.
Nearly 17 million people have filed unemployment claims in the last three weeks as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc across the global economy.
More than 90% of Americans are under stay-at-home orders to contain the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 430,000 people in the U.S.
“In its first month alone, the coronavirus crisis is poised to exceed any comparison to the Great Recession,” Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the recruiting firm Glassdoor, said. “The new normal for unemployment insurance claims will be the canary in the coal mine for how long effects of the crisis will linger for the millions of newly unemployed Americans.”
Total jobless claims in fact dropped slightly for the week ended April 4, down from 6.8 million the week prior.
Following release of the jobs numbers, the Federal Reserve announced a $2.3 trillion stimulus program including a municipal liquidity facility that would offer up to $500 billion to state and city governments.
Economists say the U.S. jobless rate has hit 10% in the last three weeks after hovering around 3.5% for an extended period.
California, New York, and Michigan, three of the states hardest-hit by the virus, saw the largest increases in claims. The restaurant and entertainment sector saw the sharpest employment declines. The Labor Department’s survey of households showed a decline of 3 million, including 1.3 million people who dropped out of the workforce due to coronavirus restrictions that prevented them from looking for work.
“Today’s report continues to reflect the personal sacrifice being made by America’s workers and their families to slow the spread of the coronavirus,” Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said.
Economists say they expect job losses of up to 20 million in April.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images